Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) is a rare disorder in which your body’s immune system attacks your nerves. Weakness and tingling in your extremities are usually the first symptoms.
These sensations can quickly spread, eventually paralyzing your whole body. In its most severe form GBS is a medical emergency. Most people with the condition must be hospitalized to receive treatment.
The exact cause of GBS is unknown. But two-thirds of patients report symptoms of an infection in the six weeks preceding. These include respiratory or a gastrointestinal infection or Zika virus.
There’s no known cure for GBS, but several treatments can ease symptoms and reduce the duration of the illness. Although most people recover from GBS, the mortality rate is 4% to 7%. Between 60-80% of people are able to walk at six months. Patients may experience lingering effects from it, such as weakness, numbness or fatigue.
GBS often begins with tingling and weakness starting in your feet and legs and spreading to your upper body and arms. In about 10% of people with the disorder, symptoms begin in the arms or face. As GBS progresses, muscle weakness can evolve into paralysis.
Signs and symptoms of Guillain-Barre syndrome may include:
- Prickling, pins and needles sensations in your fingers, toes, ankles or wrists
- Weakness in your legs that spreads to your upper body
- Unsteady walking or inability to walk or climb stairs
- Difficulty with facial movements, including speaking, chewing or swallowing
- Double vision or inability to move eyes
- Severe pain that may feel achy, shooting or cramplike and may be worse at night
- Difficulty with bladder control or bowel function
- Rapid heart rate
- Low or high blood pressure
- Difficulty breathing
People with GBS usually experience their most significant weakness within two weeks after symptoms begin.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not include GBS in its listings of disabling conditions. This does not mean that you can’t qualify for disability with GBS.
There are several ways to approach a Social Security disability claim for GBS, depending on which symptoms you suffer. The most common conditions caused by GBS which are accepted by the SSA for disability purposes include:
Chronic respiratory insufficiency. This leads to breathing problems, which in turn leads to low oxygen levels.
Major joint dysfunction. This is caused by tightening muscles, which leads to difficulty walking or using your arms.
Simply being diagnosed with GBS will not automatically qualify you for disability benefits.
When you present your claim, you will want to include any other disabling conditions you may have, whether they are related to your GBS or not. GBS sufferers often deal with depression or other mental illnesses due in part to their struggles with GBS. If you suffer any debilitating symptoms-physical or mental/emotional, make sure that they are included in your claim.